Bratislava, November 17 (TASR) – Despite a ban on public gatherings, thousands of people came together in Bratislava on Tuesday, which is a public holiday commemorating the Velvet Revolution that brought down the Communist rule in 1989, to protest against Prime Minister Igor Matovic’s (OLANO) coronavirus policies.
Protests took place mainly in front of the Presidential Palace and Government Office.
Masked football hooligans, many of them under the influence of alcohol, began gathering in front of the Main Railway Station around 3 p.m., chanting anti-Matovic slogans. Some of them were carrying banners, including with the slogans: ‘Stop the Dictatorial Government’, or ‘Observe the Law, Observe the Constitution’. They then headed towards the Government Office and Presidential Palace.
The police had erected mobile barriers in front of the Government Office to separate the compound from the spacious Freedom Square. Several hooligans attempted to break through the barriers, while others were hurling firecrackers towards the enclosed area.
These protesters then moved on to the Presidential Palace, where a different protest featuring hundreds of people was already taking place. The police closed off the nearby streets and deployed riot units to oversee the situation.
Slovakia’s national anthem was sung at the protest, and shouts such as ‘Matovic Is a Virus’, and ‘Freedom!’ could be heard. Banners likened Matovic to Hitler and the Government to fascists, while some people were wearing Jewish stars with the inscription ‘Untested’. This was a reference to the countrywide testing for coronavirus earlier this month, which the Government called voluntary, but imposed two weeks of self-isolation for all those who didn’t take part, along with the threat of fines, as certificates proving a negative test result were widely checked.
Several people delivered speeches in front of the Presidential Palace, including MPs from the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) and its chairman Marian Kotleba. He called LSNS MP Andrej Medvecky a “martyr”, claiming that he was “taken away for no good reason” by the riot police.
Photos of Medvecky sporting a head injury as he was being carried away by several police officers appeared later on social networks.